The gallery was originally conceived and built with an eye toward landing one of NASA’s retiring space shuttles. However back in April NASA announced the shuttles would go to New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida. The Museum of Flight instead will receive the Full-Fuselage Trainer in which all of the shuttle astronauts prepped for their missions. Ted Huetter, public relations and promotions manager for the museum, said there isn’t yet a firm time for delivery of the trainer, which is now in Houston, but that it would likely be some time in the spring. It will be the centerpiece of the new Simonyi Gallery.
The dedication hoopla will get under way at the museum at 11 a.m. Dec. 8.
Simonyi is a Microsoft billionaire who has a home in Medina. He has twice flown to the International Space Station as a space tourist. He reportedly donated $3 million of the $12 million cost of the gallery.
The gallery will open to the public Saturday with a temporary exhibit called “The Future of Spaceflight.” The exhibit will explore the developments taking place as the commercial spaceflight industry works to open up access to space. It also will include renderings of the upcoming permanent exhibit “Space Flight Academy,” featuring the Full-Fuselage Trainer, which is scheduled to open in June. On Saturday museum visitors who bring a donation of a non-perishable food item will receive half-price admission. The food drive will benefit Northwest Harvest.
All day Friday the museum will host a NASA Future Forum, featuring panel discussions on innovation, discovery, commercial partnerships, and education. A number of NASA officials will be on hand, as will representatives of Andrews Space, MEI Technologies, the X Prize Foundation, and Arkyd Astronautics. The mix represents the notion that the private sector is going to play a larger role in future space exploration.
There’s a bit of humor in an attempt create some mystery about the gallery opening. A news release sent to Seattle Astronomy today from a public relations firm working for the museum gushed that “a renowned space traveler” would be on hand Thursday, and that “this local man will make an additional surprise announcement.” The coyness about his identity comes despite the fact that both the Seattle Times and SeattlePI.com ran stories about the Simonyi Gallery on Monday, and an email sent to museum friends and members Tuesday bore the subject line “Future of Spaceflight Exhibit Opens 12/10 in Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.”
Check the Museum of Flight website for details of all the special space events happening this weekend.